“Biosolids” refers to human sewage waste that has undergone special treatment to allow for it to be applied to soils in a similar fashion as compost or fertilizer. This ‘waste’ is a soil amendment that is dense with the nutrients and minerals required for healthy plant growth.
Currently farms that are USDA Organic Certified are prohibited from using biosolids.
At first glance you may think the ban on biosolids is a good thing, and I agree that I’m not particularly fond of human waste being sprayed near my growing food either. However, our socially constructed disgust is not an accurate reflection of our waste’s true role in nature.
To put it simply, nutrients that leave the soil in the form of consumed vegetation must eventually return to the soil in the form of waste.
The completion of this full circle is critical in order to maintain a healthy and sustainable nutrient cycle… and by prohibiting the use of biosolids, we are putting a seriously inefficient kink in it.
Really the understanding of this concept is nothing new.
This method of working human consumed nutrients back into the soil system has been celebrated and utilized by agricultural communities around the world for thousands of years.
The part I find most confusing is that we fully recognize the valuable nutrient load animal manure carries, ensuring that it is incorporated back back into the soil as efficiently as possible.
Yet, for some reason, we refuse to view human waste under an even vaguely similiar light.
With that being said, it is important to point out that human waste does have unique complications associated with its use -such as the presence of pathogens and pharmaceutical contaminants.
For that reason, I am not suggesting the unrestricted-usage of biosolids on all soils by anyone and everyone.
And I really don’t know where exactly the problems lay, or what the solutions might be (I’m not an expert). I just think that we should be working toward finding ways to fix the issues to more efficiently utilize this resource.
So while I understand the logic behind the USDA’s ban in organic, I feel like it puts human waste in a taboo light as a destructive product with no potential value.
I am simply saying that the usage of biosolids, and the related complications, should be viewed as an issue in need of innovative solutions…. not an unavoidable consequences of an inherently evil practice.